Steve Cook must have been like a kid waiting for Christmas to arrive during the past few months.
It's not that Cook hasn't been staying busy since being named as Carson High's baseball coach in November. But a long off season finally ended on Saturday, Feb. 26 when the Senators had their first practice.
"I'm happy right now, relieved," said Cook, who takes over for the legendary Ron McNutt, who coached the team for the past 29 seasons. Cook played and coached under McNutt himself.
"I'm just so anxious, not that nervous," Cook said. "I'm anxious to get these guys working."
For Cook, it's also nice that he's now only working with a roster of 21 as opposed to a large number of players during the off season. "It's a lot more workable than the 50 we had in baseball class," he said. "I think the 21 kids we've got are going to do a great job this year."
Cook also has a greater understanding of the duties McNutt under took. "I appreciate 100 percent more what Mac did here for 30 years," he said.
Cook's two assistants are also extremely familiar to the program. Russell McCarvel has moved up to the varsity from the junior varsity and John Valley, a long-time assistant under McNutt, is Cook's other assistant. "He was coach Mac's right hand man for a long time," said Cook about Valley.
The Senators have plenty of depth - and question marks - on the mound this season. Their No. 1 starter will be left-handed Wes Osmer, who has signed to play for Western Nevada Community College. But Osmer is also the only returning starting pitcher with considerable experience.
But the Senators do have pitchers returning with varsity experience in Josh Caron, Jack Jacquet and sophomore Kyle Mandoki. There's also senior Mike Teixeira, Chris Ames and four other sophomores - Joe Skates, Nick Smallman, Tony Fagan and Brooks Greenlee. "Those are the kids that are going to make or break us," Cook said.
The leading candidate to start at first base is returning varsity veteran Murph Gardner. Osmer could also see action at first and there's also Adam Anderson and T.J. Hein. Carson's starting second baseman returns from last year in junior Logan Parsley.
In addition there's Sean Costella, who is small in size, but could see considerable playing time in the infield. "He's got good hands," Cook said. "He's got a great arm for his size. He's an athlete."
Junior Kevin Schlange, a starting outfielder last year, will move back to the infield and start at shortstop. There are several candidates to play third including Ames, Smallman, Gardner and Greenlee, who could be Carson's most versatile player. Parsley could play to third as well.
"He's just a raw talent, great arm," said Cook about Greenlee. "We don't know what we're going to do with him yet. He's going to do a little bit of everything."
At catcher, there's Jason Knowles, with Gardner, Fagan and Greenlee other possibilities.
There will be just as much competition in the outfield with Alex Tanchek, Jeremiah Teeter, Derek Shoaf, Skates and Fagan all playing for spots. Carson's starting centerfielder in junior Royal Good returns. Good also figures to be the leadoff hitter and should be followed in no particular order by Parsley, Schlange and Osmer.
The Senators have a number of candidates for designated hitter including Gardner, Anderson and Osmer.
"We're going to be an active team offensively," Cook said. "We're going to put pressure on the defense.
"The great thing about these 21 kids is they're not locked into one spot. We have 21 guys and the best nine are going to play for us."
The Northern 4A looks to be as strong as ever with Wooster possibly the team to beat on paper. The Sierra League race should be tough again with Wooster, defending state champion Reno High and Douglas among the teams to watch out for. Another team to watch out for could be Galena, who should return a strong nucleus.
But even though one Northern 4A team will advance to the NIAA State Championships in Southern Nevada, the goal at Carson never changes. "The expectations here as a team are two win zone and to win state," Cook said.